There’s nothing better than a good old rock ‘n’ roll Cinderella story, with evil executives screwing singers and songwriters out of their earnings, rock stars falling into oblivion, and a final comeback from obscurity into a well-deserved fame and recognition. The story of Rodriguez (née Sixto Díaz Rodríguez, because he was the sixth child of his family) is exactly like that, only better, because the hero is a 70 year-old Latin rock star.
Get this: Rodriguez, who is kind of like the long lost Chicano Bob Dylan, recorded two albums in the ’70s: Cold Fact and Coming from Reality. They didn’t perform very well in the States, but they became huge in South Africa –platinum huge. In the meantime, Rodriguez was dropped by his record label and became a construction worker in Detroit, unaware of his fame in the other side of the globe. He never saw a penny from his sells, either. In the ’90s, when the Internet came into existence, a die-hard South African Rodriguez fan launched a website called “The Great Rodriguez Hunt,” trying to find out whether his idol was still alive –rumors said he had either committed suicide back in the day, or had died recently as a poor and broken man. But it turns out Rodriguez is alive and kicking. Latin rock stars are corriosos.
If you want to know the details of this stranger-than-fiction tale, go see Searching for Sugar Man, an award wining documentary by Malik Bendjelloul that opens this weekend (July 27th) in NY and LA. Thanks to this documentary, Rodriguez’s career has been re-launched. He will be on Letterman, starting a US tour, and releasing his music as the soundtrack of the movie. Rodriguez says his Mexican dad was the one who taught him how to play the guitar. And you know what? The music’s good. ’70s-folk-protest-psychodelic good. Go check it out.